The Mountain That Gave The Ancient Greek City Of Athens Its Iconic Look


From the Parthenon in the Acropolis to Plato’s Academy, one mountain provided most of the marble that gave Athens its iconic look—Mount Pentelicus. During ancient times, there may have been as many as 25 quarries on the south slope of the mountain, producing carved blocks of exquisite white Pentelic marble for use in the city of Athens. To accentuate the relationship between the mountain and the city of Athens, a sanctuary to the goddess, Athena, was housed at the summit of Mount Pentelicus.

The Pentelic marble that was used in places such as the Acropolis in Athens would have been requisitioned from a quarry on Mount Pentelicus, or from the surrounding town of Penteli. After the stone was mined, it was hauled—presumably by mules, ramps and pulleys—until it reached the construction site. An estimated 20,000 tons of marble from Mount Pentelicus was moved to Athens by this method for the construction of the Parthenon. The blocks of marble that made up the Parthenon were placed upon a limestone foundation and held together by iron clamps (sealed with molten lead) and wooden pins, for added earthquake resistance.

Although quarrying on the southern slope of Mount Pentelicus was banned in Greece during the 1960, mining is still active in other regions. Historical preservationists and restorers have taken advantage of this—newly quarried blocks of Pentelic marble are being used to keep the ancient structures of Athens standing tall and proud.

Written by C. Keith Hansley.

Picture attribution: (The Acropolis at Athens painted by Leo von Klenze (1784–1864), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).


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